I love to sing. Love. It. I especially love those tight Barbershop harmonies.

Recently my business coach (who is helping me investigate this “work/life” balance concept) gave me some homework: contact the Sweet Adelines and find out about joining. The Sweet Adelines is an international organization of female barbershop harmony groups, and there are some sizeable chapters in this area.

Since I love easy homework, I dug in right away, by Googling “Sweet Adelines.” Their extensive website is a hard sell on the joy of becoming a Sweet Adelines member. It includes everything one would ever hope to know about the group–including arcana such as their chapter liability insurance flyer and IRS Form 990 information–but absolutely no information on the cost or process for joining.

There’s a dizzying list of membership types, a list of the available discounts (starting at 10%) without any kind of pricing, a downloadable brochure that simply repeats the same stuff you’re reading on the website, and a “learn more” link that launches your email client and creates a generic blank email to a general membership email box.

The “Contact Us” form is no better. You fill in a snail mail request, wait a couple of weeks, and in the mail comes an expensive, glossy hard copy of the same brochure you’ve already downloaded in PDF format.

Tucked into the brochure is one of those mini-CDs (the kind that was cutting edge in 2002.) And the kind that won’t in my Mac, because Macs don’t have CD trays.

It’s a shame, too, because everything I need to know to join the Sweet Adelines is apparently on that useless CD, which I threw immediately into the garbage.

It’s a several-ounce package, and the whole thing probably cost at least $3 or so to mail. $3 that went straight into the trash.

So, after spending 20 minutes scouring their website to figure out how to join, and two weeks of waiting for something in the mail, I’m no closer now to joining the Sweet Adelines than I was three weeks ago.

If the Sweet Adelines is willing to spend $3 or $4 for a mailing instead of making all that same data available online for free, I suspect the organization is something of a spendthrift and would probably waste my membership dues (whatever they may be…I still have no idea.)

The Sweet Adelines is a perfect case history on how to communicate badly, expensively, and ineffectively, while simultaneously ruining an organization’s image.

Epic Marketing Fail.

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